February - March 2008

Zihuataneo,Mexico Thru El Salvador

General Overview - Leg II


This “chapter” took us from Zihuataneo, to Acapulco and southern Mexico and on thru El Salvador, Nicaragua & Guatemala. Throughout our travels we’ve seen beautiful country as well as poverty like one only reads about in newspapers or magazines. We continue to meet interesting people and have not become board with our lifestyle, still finding adventures and challenges along the way. We hope you will enjoy yet another “chapter” in our travels.

Talk about seeing and doing new things. This portion of our voyage has been filled with activities and inland travel that are new to us. We find ourselves in uncharted territory (for us anyway) now that we have passed Manzanillo, Mexico, which up until now, was the furthest southern point we have taken The Dreamweaver.

Zihuatenao is a beautiful bay in southwest Mexico and is home to Sailfest, an annual fundraiser that the cruisers put on to raise money for the local schools. I felt like I was back home doing Soroptimist fundraisers again. It was filled with great people, great comradery, and fun events, many of which included both the community and cruisers alike. Local concerts, seminars, auctions, chili cookoff’s, and a sailboat race, where we got to crew with our friends Laura & Louis on their boat “Cirque” The event ended with a Boat Parade where people paid to “crew” on a boat and be part of the boat parade. A little over $50,000 was raised, which goes a long way in small Mexican schools!

Seems there’s always a fiesta or holiday going on in Mexico, and Zihua was no exception. Carnaval started on Fat Tuesday and the square was brimming with people, entertainment, food and celebration. Each night street vendors would fill the plaza. One in particular had the most fabuloso burgers we think we’ve ever had! (This coming from a burger connoisseur no less!) People crowded around the little street cart just to watch the “artist” at work. I swear I saw drool running down customers faces in anticipation of this tasty treat they were about to indulge in. On a scale of one to ten, they were an eleven! If you ever get there don’t miss them:)

We thoroughly enjoyed our time there; catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and being a part of Sailfest. Zihua is also the turning point where most boats do a 180 and start heading north again. Others begin their voyages down to Southern Mexico, Central America, Panama, Ecuador, and still others jump 2,500 miles across the ocean to the South Pacific. We fall into the second category which will take us thru the Panama Canal and over to the Caribbean.

From there it was on to the infamous vacation spot –Acapulco - land of the ever spectacular cliff divers! It was there that we discovered where all the VW bugs from the 60’s had gone... they’ve been reincarnated as taxi cabs in Acapulco….the street were crawling with them! I had no idea how many people you can cram into one of those things until we went with our friends Dana and Frank, on Snow Goose, to see the cliff divers one day. Frank is a VERY big man and filled the tiny front seat to the max. Dana, Ken & I, along with our backpacks, squished into the back seat and away we went. The divers were truly impressive - quite a spectacular sight watching them soar thru the air then plunge into the water from the lofty cliffs that line the small bay. We later wandered thru the run down city and were hard pressed to see what all the fuss about Acapulco was – perhaps we just didn’t see the best side of town??

When you are out in the ocean cruising from place to place like we are, not only are you looking ahead for other boats in your path, you’re also keeping an eye out for obstacles such as rocks, reefs, logs, long lines, fishing nets, etc. As a bonus we’ve had a front row seat to the most beautiful sea creatures out there.…. whales breeching , dolphins playing in our bow wake, manta rays flying thru the air, sailfish & marlin jumping, and hundreds of turtles – some with birds hitching a ride on their backs! None of these things are considered unusual sights – awesome, yes - unusual, no!

While on their way to Acapulco, our friends Lynne & Paul on Beaudatious did find something rather unusual as they were cruising along. When they sighted something floating from a distance but couldn’t quite decipher what it was, out of curiosity they turned their boat towards it to investigate further. From afar they thought it looked like a mannequin floating, but on closer investigation they found it was a man’s dead, nude body! Out in the middle of nowhere! They radioed it in to the officials but were told they had to “babysit” the body for a few hours and wait for the Mexican Navy to show up. In the meantime, birds, who always welcome a place to land and rest, kept landing on the guys butt! Of course they couldn’t have that disrespect for the dead, so they found themselves shooing away birds from the poor guy’s fanny. Guess that means they were technically on “Bird and Body Watch” a far cry from the glamour of Bay Watch! It ended up to be a man who had gotten swept out to sea while swimming a few days earlier!!!

After anchoring out for weeks we were thrilled to pull into the marina in Huatulco, this being our last stop in Mexico before moving on to Central America. A marina gave us the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs, give DW a long overdue bath, and the opportunity to “launch” our motorcycle to do some inland travel while still in Mexico.

Our buddies on Paloma, Alanui, Komara, and Monju all bid us farewell as we packed up our bags, jumped on our motorcycle, and took off for our first 500 mile inland trip to Oaxaca. Many people advised us to avoid the long, steep, and incredibly windy mountain road to Oaxaca. Of course those of you who really know Ken, know that naturally we took the windy road... indeed it did make the road on the back grade from Big Bear to Lucerne look like a beginners run. We later learned that some of our cruising buddies began taking bets that we wouldn’t make it all the way on our enduro-style motorcycle before calling it quits and turning back! Little do they know Captain Chaos and this biker chick never says never!

Oaxaca and the outlying areas were amazing. Not only was it a cool city with many old cathedrals to see, we were able to tour great historical ruins from the 1500’s. Oaxaca is well known for their wide variety of arts and crafts not only in Mexico but around the world. Their weavings in particular are incredibly intricate and are all hand woven by the families in the area. Although we had little to no room to carry things on our motorcycle, we just had to pick up a few rugs that were representative of the people and this area. They expect you to barter for the price, which we did; however, it is difficult because you are dealing directly with the people that made them and they are so proud of their work you don’t want to insult them. Still at that, we bought them for a fraction of the price we would have had to pay elsewhere. I like to think that make us frugal – or is that called cheap?! Either way we were happy campers nonetheless:)

Huatulco was our last stop in Mexico and is the gathering point where boats have to wait for a good weather window before crossing the dreaded Gulf of Tuantapec. It is a 500 mile crossing thru an area that has gale warnings constantly. We hurried back from our trip inland when our friends on Paloma emailed to let us know that there was a good window opening up.

Returning to the boat the next day we hoped to take off the following morning when a group of 4 boats were crossing together. It is not necessary, but always comforting, to do a 3-4 day crossing with a buddy boat(s). Instead we spent the entire day trying to check out of Mexico, which is another story in-and-of-itself that I won’t get into here. By 7 pm we were officially checked out and now 10 hours behind our friends. When Carl and Mei on Monju decided to leave at the same time as we did, it was a treat. They were great to travel with and aside from Monju getting caught in two separate long lines (which is where fishermen string out up to a mile of lines and hooks) the crossing was uneventful.

On day four we followed the pilot boat 8 miles up a river, picked up a mooring ball at Barillas which is where the Immigration, Customs and Port Captain officials boarded our boat and officially welcomed us into our first port in Central America, El Salvador!

El Salvador is very poor and the signs of it once being a war torn country becomes evident as you leave the resort, (which is behind locked gates and protected by armed guards.) Although surrounded by poverty, the Barillas Club was first class. A place where wealthy El Salvadorians come to get away. We had access to a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, palapas, wireless internet, etc... all for only $11 a day! This is where we caught up with several of our cruising buddies as we gathered around the palapas and enjoyed several days of catching up, pot lucks and just lounging around the pool. One wouldn’t dare go in the water where our boats were anchored, as we were so far up the river and in the mangroves, the water was quite brackish and downright nasty... not to mention a minor little detail like not wanting to swim with the crocodiles that called that lagoon home! Ken may have wrestled a Grizzly Bear in the past but never a crocodile – yet anyway!

A bus (complete with an armed guard) takes the cruisers 20 miles to the bustling little town of Usulutan twice a week for provisions. This is where we first encountered a true “third world” open marketplace! Every little nook and cranie on the dirt roads were filled with locals, selling their wares, from heaps of fruits and vegetables to machetes, plucked chickens, clothes and anything else they could conjure up to make a buck and earn some money to sustain themselves. It was messy and noisy while every one was shouting to get you to buy from them. The smells of fried food surrounded us as we wandered the streets where families were cooking and serving up “poupousas” (a traditional tortilla/pancake type of food) to make ends meet. There were literally hundreds of people there and it was an eye-opening experience, one that will be duplicated many times over before this trip comes to an end. It was one of the things that once again made us feel very fortunate to come from the good ol’ U.S. of A!

In Barillas we walked (with a guide from the marina) down a dirt road, thru the sugar cane fields, and back to a site where about 20 people (1 large extended family) live in a small house with dirt floors. We came to see the monkeys they care for. Pancho, the only male of the group with about 20 females and some babies as young as 15 days old, apparently kills all the male babies so he will be the only male and thus the “head monkey!” The family started taking care of the monkeys during the war when people would hunt them for food. Rumor has it that they would feed the soldiers to keep them from eating the monkeys?! It was a special treat to have monkeys come swinging thru the trees like Tarzan to greet us. They actually took the bananas right from our hands and scurried back up the tree to peel and eat them. We’ve been out here long enough that I’d probably go swinging thru trees too if someone was offering me something yummy…. like a good cheeseburger! (Can you tell by now that I love a good burger!)

Leaving Dreamweaver in Barillas in early March, we traveled inland 1,300 miles thru El Salvador and Guatemala on our motorcycle which was a really thrilling trip and is covered in a previous writing under “Motorcycle Diaries.”

Towards the end of March we bid El Salvador a fond farewell and continued our expedition south and further into Central America. As we close this log we are also saying good bye to Mexico once again, a country we’ve really learned to enjoy and appreciate, and good bye to fellow cruisers we have shared challenges and good times with over the past few years. As Arnold says, “Weee’ll Be Back!”

Love & Dreams,

Ken & Dottie

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